KANSAS CITY - Health, comfort foods, clean label and spicy-sweet are among the many trends informing innovations in the spice category, which continues to diversify as homebound chefs look for new ways to shake up their cooking routines. 

Pekin, Ill.-based Excalibur Seasoning is excited about two new flexitarian patty blends that the company developed using pea proteins to fit the flexitarian market, said Rick McLimans, the company’s sales and marketing consultant. The new blends are Smoked Gouda Ancho Portabella and Roasted Garlic.

Clean label is also playing a huge role in Excalibur’s approach to new product innovation, McLimans said. The company has new ingredients available to replace phosphates, nitrites and antioxidant ingredients in various products. 

Also on tap for 2021 and beyond: a continuation of the comfort food trend that really picked up steam during COVID, McLimans said.  

“With that in mind, we created ‘comfort food’ sausage blends - Deluxe Beer Cheese Soup, Jalapeno Popper, Stuffed Bell Pepper, Pit Smoked BBQ, and Dill Pickle,” he said.  

The trend for all things spicy is still huge —and, in particular, McLimans said, anything in the “spicy-sweet” category. Flavors such as Asian Sriracha in a patty or marinade are still a favorite, he said. Excalibur offers a Chipotle Lime seasoning topper and a Blackberry Black Pepper that pair well with chicken, pork and seafood. 

Excalibur is also continuing to see strong demand for several of its sausage spice blends. 

“Sweet Kentucky Bourbon, Smoked Gouda Portabella, Yuzu Honey marinade and Blackberry Teriyaki marinade are selling tremendously well,” he said.

In 2021, Excalibur is also excited about what McLimans called a “small batch” lineup it has created for the grocery retail market. The program is set up to work for 10-pound sausage or patty meat blocks and 12.5-pound tumble marinade meat blocks, with some 20 topical blend varieties available depending on the needed application.

“There’s something to complement every protein and vegetable,” he said.  

Excalibur’s team-first approach to developing new spices is one of the major keys to its success, McLimans added.  

“Our sales and consulting staff averages close to 40 years of experience in the meat industry,” he said. “Our ‘meatheads,’ as I like to call them, help our R&D team develop inspirational flavors. It allows us to better serve processors, retailers and commissaries making them more profitable.” 

Cargill’s new sea salt product perfect for spice blends

Cargill’s recently introduced Purified Sea Salt Flour is a unique type of sodium chloride, sifted to the smallest and finest granulations of sea salt crystals, and perfect for spice blends and other applications. And, according to the company, it’s the only one of its kind.

“The powder-like sea salt was created to help food manufacturers bring their products to the next level through innovative ingredient technology,” according to Cargill. “In terms of ingredients functionality, sea salt flour will perform differently compared to standard granulated salts.”

Purified Sea Salt Flour stands out in five significant ways, according to Cargill:

  • Adherence - the ultra-fine cut sticks better to food, resulting in less fall-off and less salt waste.
  • Solubility - dissolves faster in liquids, which will create a more evenly saturated brine rather than having excess salt settle at the bottom, saving processing time and resources.
  • Blendability - blends more effectively in foods, creating a more consistent distribution of flavor, color, and minimizing pockets of salty bursts.
  • Flavor - provides a faster salty flavor burst by increasing the rate of dissolution in the mouth, potentially increasing perceptions of saltiness. This can achieve a potential reduction in sodium and also helps to enhance other flavors.
  • Texture - Delivers a smooth, even consistency that can have an undetected presence in food. This is especially valuable in food applications where it’s crucial to eliminate grittiness and have a uniform taste throughout.

Spice giant McCormick adds to portfolio

Hunt Valley, Md.-based McCormick & Company Inc.’s purchase of FONA International, LLC gives the spice giant new resources in the areas of clean and natural flavors, providing solutions for a diverse customer base across various applications for the food, beverage and nutritional markets, according to McCormick. McCormick acquired the business for $710 million in cash.

"The acquisition of FONA reinforces McCormick's global growth strategy as FONA expands the breadth of our flavor solutions segment into attractive categories, as well as extends our technology platform and strengthens our capabilities,” said Lawrence Kurzius, McCormick’s chairman, president and CEO. “This acquisition also accelerates the strategic migration of our portfolio to more value-added and technically insulated products and thus, is expected to be accretive to gross margin.”

FONA's portfolio, he added, is highly complementary to McCormick's and will provide the company’s customers with an even more comprehensive product offering to meet the growing demand for clean and flavorful eating, drinking and nutrition experiences.

"McCormick has a history of creating value through acquisitions,” Kurzius said. “As we continue to build the McCormick of the future and create long-term shareholder value, we are confident this is a great strategic fit with our vision of being a leading flavor company. The employees of FONA share with McCormick a great history and commitment to core values and purpose, doing what is right while driving industry leading financial performance, and we look forward to welcoming them to the McCormick family.”

Founded more than 30 years ago, FONA is a leading independent manufacturer of flavors, with a focus on nutritional and natural products and a well-recognized brand that McCormick plans to retain. The company’s headquarters features a state-of-the art manufacturing and technical innovation center.